It's Always the Quiet One

Rambling about life, culture, Project Runway, and the occasional fruity drink.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Forget Manhattan... I'll Take Queens!

It's morning at Parsons, and Heidi is up to something. She has The Velvet Bag™ with her, but instead of bringing out the winning and losing models as usual, she announces a special guest! Everyone looks towards the scrim and a strange silhouette appears. Suede’s look sums up the general thoughts of the designers. But then a jolly laugh rings out, which can only mean one thing - it’s my favorite from last season, Chris March - in full Wagnerian regalia, with disco-ball boobs and a four-foot tall horned helmet that must weigh fifty pounds! His outfit makes me think of one of my most favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons ever (What's Opera, Doc?). Actually, Bugs was quite the drag queen at times. You just know that if they’d had disco balls in 1957 that he’d totally be wearing them as boobs too, bouncing rays of cartoon sunlight off off of them into Elmer Fudd’s eyes and getting away yet again.

Frau Chris gives out this week’s highly amusing challenge of designing a look for a drag queen, and has brought along some of his fabulous friends to be the models. YES! This is awesome. This is the designers’ chance to go as over-the-top and flamboyant as they want (and some of them are trying to go that way every week, so I hope we’ll see a lot of flash on the runway).

Now I don’t know a lot about the whole drag scene. I’ve seen a few movies, and I could be wrong, but it seems to me that there are basically two types: the costumey queens, like Hugo Weaving in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and the elegant queens, like Patrick Swayze in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.
We’ve got both types here, so this should be an interesting bunch of garments. The designers pick their queens, Heidi and Chris go out for biere, speitzel und braunschweiger, and it’s time to get this drag show on the road!

Back in the workroom, Tim tells the designers that they have to keep their ladies’ particular persona in mind while designing, and encourages them – nay, demands them – to have fun with it! (Because some of y’all are uptight - I’m looking at you, Daniel!) This is the one time they can break Tim’s rule of “make sure she can get into a taxi wearing the design” and not get the extremely concerened frown. He also reveals that all of the garments will be auctioned off to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, a very worthy cause. He then sends in the queens!

My God, these are some tall ladies! The top of Kenley’s head barely comes up to the shoulder blade of her client, a Hollywood glamourpus called Farrah Moans. Daniel looks like a munchkin next to Annida Greenkard, his flamenco-themed client. (Oh, and the puns are flying thick in the room – we’ve also got Hedda Lettuce, Miss Understood, and Sharon Needles, to name a few.) It’s a good thing they have a bigger budget this week, because people this tall need a lot of fabric!

Joe - who is, of course, straight - is having a hard time getting his head around the drag queen concept, and decides to approach the whole thing like he’s making a Halloween costume for one of his little girls – and he’s probably grasped the idea better than he thinks! He suggests a tight-fitting catsuit for his Southern-belle-on-steroids client, Varla Jean Merman. Leanne, who has the aforementioned Ms. Needles, is going for a futuristic Jetsons look.

As the queens leave, one of them asks Tim to call her. Tim laughs politely, because THAT’S not happening, and then takes the designers off to MOOD. Once the store has been drained of sequins, satin and feathers, it’s back to Parsons.

Because these are men dressed up as women, the designers have to use male dressforms and put chests and butts on them.

Joe gets in touch with his feminine side at long last, dancing around in the bra and fake boobs left for him by Varla. Not all the designers have the same advantage – Daniel even tries to get Kenley’s bra but she’s not having any of that.

A few of the designers are lost – Korto sits and stares at blank sheets of paper for a while, hoping a design will just magically appear on it – while others, like Terri, have designed drag outfits before and know exactly what to do. There’s a lot of interesting fabric – Daniel has some kind of tye-dye stuff that looks like mangos in a blender, Jerell has some olive green and aqua sparkly material, and Joe’s table looks like a cotton candy maker threw up all over it.

Blayne parades around the tables with pink netting tied over his head, giving out drag queen names such as "Lethalicious," while Stella and Leanne show us how they feel about his overuse of that particular suffix. I'm betting most of the designers wish they could tie that netting a little bit tighter. Or maybe a lot.

The next day, Suede recounts a bizarre "visit" from his dead grandfather who stops by and mistakes Suede's green fabric for a garden plot and starts growing salad fixins on it. So Suede decides to make tiny little fabric lettuces and sew them all over the dress. He's sure Hedda is going to love it, but I am not so sure. (I would like some salad, though.) Keith has decided to make a black and white dress that looks like it got caught in a wood chipper. The other designers titter about this behind his back. His client specifically said "sex kitten" not "shredded by a kitten". I think Keith needs to have his ears cleaned out.

There are nine hours remaining in the day, and the queens return for a fitting. They come in sans makeup and are pretty ordinary-looking guys. At this point, I have to stop the DVR and have the following conversation.

My Daughter (who is nine): Um, Mom? I thought the models were coming in. Who are those guys?
Me: Those are the drag queens.
My Daughter: But...they're guys.
Me: Yes, but they're entertainers. They put on costumes and sing and dance and do shows and people come to see them.
My Daughter: (ponders this) Oh. You mean like at Chuck E. Cheese.

I'm so glad my kids have outgrown that place. I could just see my daughter yelling "Hey look Mom! It's a drag queen!" when Chuck E. comes out to stroll around the restaurant. (And... come to think of it, wasn't one of Chuck's animatronic friends a drag queen?)

Speaking of restaurants, let's check out Suede's salad bar dress. Hedda, as I suspected, is not loving the outfit. She looks like a stuffed dinosaur. She also isn't digging the elbow-length gloves with the tiny lettuces, and accuses Suede of making gloves because he was too lazy to make sleeves. But fear not, Suede is not going to let himself or his design be roughed up by roughage!

Later in the evening, Tim returns, and he has Chris with him. Good thinking. Chris is going to do most of the advice-giving, since he obviously has experience with this kind of design and Tim, well, doesn't.

Chris admires Korto's sculptured flame neckline and gives her some advice on her skirt. Next up, Blayne. It's neon and sparkly and has these big fringy triangles coming out of the back. Tim cracks up everyone in the room when he describes it as "a pterydactyl out of a gay Jurassic Park" which is one of the best things I've ever heard Tim say. (Blayne thinks so too!) And I love hearing Chris's laugh in the workroom again. It's much nicer than Kenley's little giggle-burp thing.

Joe, despite his obvious discomfort with this entire challenge, has apparently nailed it - Chris knows exactly which drag queen the garment is for, without being told. He assures Joe that it's perfect for Varla. He also validates Suede's garment and says the gloves are "funny" - which is good because Hedda is a comedienne, after all. Chris isn't too hip on Keith's shredded mess, and while he says he likes the skirt on Daniel's flouncy fruit-colored frock, you can tell he's kinda worried about the rest of it. All too soon, it's time to bid Chris a fond farewell, and get back to sewing.

The next morning, Jerell quips "I can't wait to see Keith's Wookiee onesie come down the runway!" and Blayne responds with a dead-on Chewbacca imitation. But there's no time to lay in bed and quote Star Wars - there's a lot of work to be done!

There's a flurry of activity in the workroom as Tim sends in the drag queens. Usually the models are sent into hair and makeup, but most of the queens already did their own, since it involves giant wigs and very theatrical makeup in most cases.
But since L'Oreal and TreSemme are sponsors of the show, they HAVE to have their screen time, and they put some finishing touches on the drag queens.

The drama of the morning - Suede's confrontation with Hedda over his design - turns out to be very anti-dramatic after all, as Suede very professionally explains his case and Hedda seems quite surprised at the fact that he took offense at her 'lazy' remark (or she could be acting, I don't know). In the end they cheek-kiss and make up, Suede gets his way, and Hedda wears the lettuce gloves.

Out on the runway, Heidi introduces this week's guest judge, RuPaul - an extremely tall drag queen who used to have a TV talk show and I think recorded an album, even. I'm kind of surprised by how... bland she looks. You'd think for a show like this one, she'd be more made up and glamourous-looking, instead of looking like she just rolled out of bed after a long night of partying. Maybe she didn't want to take the focus away from the queens, or something, but dang girl! You look kinda scary. And I'm wondering, is Wishbone a silent sponsor of this episode? First we have lettuce and now, RuPaul is wearing a necklace made out of grape tomatoes. Anyway, enough about RuPaul, send in the queens!

The safe designers
Kenley (Farrah Moans) - This is very Marilyn Monroe, which is exactly the look her queen was going for. It's pretty, and well-made.
Blayne (Miss Understood) - Boy, did he pick the right client! If you compare it to his other garments, it really screams Blayne. I think he's got a bright future as a drag queen costumer.
Stella (Luisa Verde) - One thing Stella has been good at is managing to get her style into every garment she's made so far, while still basically keeping with the theme. Stella managed to do glamour AND grommets in the same outfit. It's nice to see her using a color other than black, but I'm not sure if she thought Luisa was Scottish, or what. All in all, this would be an excellent choice when one is deciding what to wear to the annual Edinburgh Biker Ball.
Suede (Hedda Lettuce) - It's really... green! I thought it turned out pretty good, and the lettuces don't really stand out all that much - a very subtle touch. What does stand out is her chocolate-colored hosiery and clear shoes, which makes it look as if she's barefoot. Out on the runway she minced and twirled and sashayed like she was trying out for the Ziegfield Follies.
Leanne (Sharon Needles) - I am so distracted by the way the gal is standing in this picture! Whose idea was THAT? As far as the design, Leanne was going for futuristic and she got it - but I'm concerned that her chest appears to be halfway between her shoulders and her waist. A drag queen, unlike an actual woman, can put her 'girls' anywhere she wants them, so why make them saggy-looking? (And if that's the way they're going to tweeze eyebrows in the future then I'm really scared.)

Who's left on the runway

Joe (Varla Jean Merman) - "Ann-Margaret on the Love Boat" indeed! For being way out of his comfort zone, Joe really knocked this one out. Yes, originally the collar had been up and it looked like Elvis, but Joe was smart enough to take Varla's advice to leave it down and go for a sailor look. It's over-the-top enough for a drag outfit, but not so much that the performer is lost. The judges are really impressed that he managed to show off the good parts and hide "the candy," as RuPaul so eloquently puts it.
Daniel (Annida Greenkard) - Yeah, it's kinda ho-hum as far as a drag queen dress, but in fairness to Daniel, it's what the client wanted. She said, during the consultaion, that she was not into sparkles and sequins, so he didn't go that route. The judges were all over him for it, though. Daniel is all about the elegance, and he didn't want to make her look like she's on the Vegas Strip, because he hates that. But I do think that he could have found some other way to give it some oomph! besides glitter, and while the basic design is nice, there's no pizazz to it. I think poor Daniel is about thirty seconds away from having an anxiety attack right there on the runway.
Terri (Acid Betty) - Whoa. This is waaaaay out there, but it fits Betty's persona perfectly. At first I wasn't quite getting where she pulled the blue from, but the more I look at it, the more I like how it balances out all the warm colors. I could have done without the yellow ribbons at the bottom, though. The judges love it, saying it's a cross between kabuki, KISS, and Diana Ross in Mahogany. Oh, and MK wants the boots.
Jerell (LeMay) - Hey, it's Liza Minelli, all suited up and getting ready to play football! I don't hate this design but I don't particularly like the colors he used. I guess I am just not a big fan of olive green (unless it is on an actual olive) and I'm confused as to why he decided to pair it with aqua and midnight blue. The big collar that pops up is a nice dramatic touch, even though it reminds me of this. The judges are concerned that the dress is too long, makes her look very long-waisted, and is too normal. MK quips that one of his aunts would have worn it to a bat mitzvah (and actually, that explains a LOT).
Korto - First thing I thought when I saw this was "Ronald McDonald's got a really stylish mom!" I like the flame detailing but I'm not too crazy about the long sleeve/no sleeve combination on, well, anything. Either put sleeves on it or don't. On the runway Sweetie took the skirt off and it turned into a mini-dress, which RuPaul really liked. Nina felt that Korto really had fun with the challenge. MK says the dress makes her look like Heidi Klum, and I'm wondering how much MK has had to drink before the show, 'cause Sweetie's got a nice shape in this dress but it's NOT Heidi Klum's.
Keith - I really hate this. Instead of 'sex kitten' it looks more like a working girl who has a rough corner. The judges pretty much hate it too. MK refers to it as a "sad chicken" and Nina simply calls it "messy." The entire time the judges are talking, Keith has this look on his face like, "How are they not getting this??" You know who would like this, though? Dee Snider.

Surprisingly, the winner is the one person whom nobody would have expected, because he was as uncomfortable as hell during most of the process - Joe! But he really had the right approach to the challenge in treating it like a costume, which is exactly what it is. And boy, is Terri pissed that she didn't win.

As for the loser, I think they took pity on poor close-to-a-breakdown Daniel and sent him off to calm down before they had to commit him to a psych ward. I think Daniel is a talented designer, but this show was just not for him. So adieu, classy Daniel; you can now ride off into the sunset with Wesley and live happily ever after.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Leopards and Zebras and Monkeys, Oh My!

Dear PR production staff: I appreciate the fact that Elle is a sponsor of this show, but if you continue to shove this scowling Mary-Kate Olson cover down our throats every episode... ...I will hunt you down and set fire to your collective underclothing. Thank you.

On with the show! Roommates Keith and Daniel start out their morning in the fitness center, pumping iron. They both get very sweaty and I hope they left time to take showers before heading over to Parsons, or I pity the designers that have to sit next to them.

When they get there, Korto (as last week’s winner) gets the opportunity to switch models but she doesn’t. So there’s nothing left to do but give the designers their challenge: they will be designing for a high-powered, glamorous professional woman. This immediately makes Blayne think of Hillary Clinton in a neon pantsuit (a mental picture that's going haunt me for some time). Apparently Blayne has not had much contact with professional women (but possibly with some “professional women”). In the workroom everyone speculates on who it could be - Heidi? Nancy Grace? (gah.) Joan Rivers? (double-gah.) The late Divine? (Oh. That’s the other kind of professional woman. Sorry.) Of course Stella wants it to be Sharon Osbourne, because then she’d definitely get to make something out of leather.

Tim arrives with the mystery client: Brooke Shields!
The designs will be for her character on Lipstick Jungle, the Sex and the City knockoff she’s currently starring in and I’ve never seen. (In fact, I don’t know anyone who’s watched it, and I asked around.) Anyway, since this season has a recycling-of-past-challenges theme to it, the look must go from day to night, which was a challenge from S2. Then Tim stuns the designers by throwing in the big twist: their garments will be sewn and modeled by monkeys.

Well, you’d think that’s what he said, judging by the reaction he gets. What he really says is that they’ll be working in teams of two. Each designer will have to pitch their idea to Brooke, who will pick team leaders. Everyone gets busy sketching, and then they each go in and try to sell their look to her. She’s very diplomatic about it, even finding something fairly nice to say about the ones she obviously doesn’t like. Stella, who has drawn something with a corset and drawstrings and probably leather that would be great in an upscale bar for professional women Harley riders, gets a completely comical blank look on her face when Brooke reminds her that the character has to go to work in it. Before announcing the team leaders, Tim tells the designers that the winning look will end up on Brooke's show, thus guaranteeing a larger audience this season as PR viewers tune in to see if it really makes it on the air. (Hey! Andrew McCarthy is in the cast, so I may watch it once. I loved him in Mannequin). Terri proclaims that this is now a serious competition. (What was it before? Summer camp?)

Brooke's choices for team leaders are Keith, Terri, Korto, Blayne, Jerell and Kelli. Blayne chooses Leanne, Keith picks Kenley (much to Daniel's disappointment, 'cause, "hey, we pumped iron together!"), Terri selects Suede, and Korto chooses Joe. Kelli has to decide between Daniel and Stella. She likes Stella but Stella might screw up and have to go home and then Kelli will feel all guilty. So she goes with Daniel, and apparently feels really good about that. This leaves Jerell with Stella, but he's happy because he was planning to do something leather anyway. Or else he's just saying that to make Stella feel better because she was the last one left. The teams get $150 and head off to MOOD. Keith immediately regrets picking Kenley because she tries to take charge of choosing the fabric, and picks a technicolor daisy print that could have come out of a 1973 Sears catalog. Thankfully Tim also agrees that it’s hideous, and they get something else, while Keith sticks his tongue out at Kenley while her back is turned.

Back in the sewing room, buddies Kenley and Daniel grouse about having to sew someone else’s sucky designs. Kelli tells the story of her childhood and we all know what that means. (Cue ominous music.) Meanwhile, in the workroom, Keith and Jerell make plans to carpool to Bryant Park for Fashion Week, because they’re both really concerned about the ozone layer and they can each chip in on gas, which will be up to $6 a gallon by that time.

Tim sends the models in for an early fitting. Things are not looking good for Team Kelli. She can’t understand why, in the time it’s taken her to make a fully-lined jacket, Daniel has made a crappy skirt that’s only ruched on one side and has a crooked zipper, and makes the model look like one of her legs is considerably shorter than the other. She makes him rip it up and start over.
On the other side of the room, Terri lays into Suede for making a crappy shirt. She comments that she doesn’t care what he’s got in the anatomy department, but he’d better man up and sew some ruffles, dammit! (Take cover, designers, there’s a lot of crap flying around this workroom today!)

Later, Tim returns to check in. He visits Blayne, whose design contains a pair of Bermuda shorts. Brooke herself said she was ‘a bit scared’ of the design, and with good reason. What high-powered fictional studio executive wears shorts to work? In a vain effort to give some constructive advice, Tim tells Blayne he needs to "dress up" the shorts.

Tim must not have eaten much for lunch, because Korto's puffy orange jacket makes him think of a giant sweet potato. Joe and Korto get into it a little bit because Joe was all “I love it!” until Tim came in, and then he’s all “I have some reservations…” Korto is ticked. She goes into some big soliloquy about how if Joe was out playing near traffic she wouldn’t let him get hit by a taxi (but you know, deep down, she'd really want to push him in front of it).

Finally it’s time to get ready for the runway show. While everyone’s doing their last-minute tweaking, they all talk smack about each other’s outfits, Kelli is glad Daniel managed to finish the skirt so they don’t have to send the model down the runway half-naked, and Tim begs them all to use the accessory wall “appropriately” – whereas in other weeks he has told them to “borrow generously”. Hmm… Actually I think he needs to have a little chat with Jerell about his personal wardrobe, because he’s wearing… um…
...a couple of Depression-era flour sack curtains tied at the shoulders? With pants? And that ratty jacket with the safety pins all over it. Oooookay...

Heidi introduces Brooke as a “fashion icon”, and I think Heidi’s throwing the title around a bit too loosely this season (just because someone wears clothing does not make them an ‘icon’. Case in point: Jerell above). Let’s take a look at what the design teams dreamed up for Brooke’s character.

The safe designers
Korto and Joe - This is business attire? I'm not sure I could get away with this at a PTA meeting, let alone a board meeting. The day-to-evening aspect involves taking off the top, and underneath is a pretty plain tan tube dress. And boy, does it have fit issues!! The bust is all baggy and crooked. I do think the orange top would look great with jeans, so I'm not knocking the design, but it's not right for this challenge.
Terri and Suede - This outfit has the same basic issue for me. I really like this design, and it fits the evening wear criteria perfectly, but it's not appropriate for the office at all.

The top two Jerell and Stella – Compared to almost everything else Jerell has sent down the runway this season, this is pretty tame and tasteful. I wasn't digging the zebra-print belt but I do agree that it gave the design a bit of a kick. It didn't turn out looking much like his sketch, which included a more form-fitting skirt with colored side panels, but overall it's a pretty nice outfit. I guess you could wear a more businesslike belt during the day and put the zebra one on before you went out. (Oh, and don't forget the sunglasses. Because nothing says "night out" like some sunglasses.) Brooke likes the mix of textures. The judges think it's well-made, flirty and sexy.
Keith and Kenley – This was my favorite. The colors are great, I really like the ruffled skirt (it moved really nicely when the model walked) and I thought Keith's day-to-evening switch was really ingenious - the sleeves tie up near the neck for daytime and when it's time to go out they can be untied, which made them longer and open up the middle. (It's kind of hard to describe.) It's classy enough for work and relaxed enough for after work. You know the judges like it because they say it looks expensive. They like how Keith's and Kenley's completely different design aesthetics worked together (although they didn't hear Kenley complaining about the design for the entire show).

The bottom two Kelli and Daniel – Leopard print and aqua just don't to go together in my opinion. The daytime look (shown here) is actually not bad - not a very innovative silhouette but I could see someone wearing this to work. However, when the jacket comes off, it's - in the words of MK - "slutty, slutty, slutty", a corset top with straps and peeks of belly. Nina gets off a zinger - "you can't get taste if you don't have it" which is pretty much the kiss of death. When asked which of them should go home, Kelli picks Daniel because she won the first challenge and hasn't been in the bottom at all. Daniel is more upset by the implication that he has no taste - he defends himself by saying that his taste is impeccable. This sends Kenley, who is standing next to him, into a fit of giggles that isn't really explained and seriously pisses Daniel off. (I guess they won't be too buddy-buddy in the next episode.)
Blayne and Leanne – This would look great on Punky Brewster, not a high-powered executive. I don't know what Blayne was thinking. I don't know what Brooke was thinking for picking it! (I suspect the producers had a bit of a hand in his selection as a team leader.) The blue tank top underneath (the evening look) was nice, and I even like the blue shirt, but I'd wear them with jeans. (I'm also taking issue with Blayne for using the same pair of shoes AGAIN this week after I told him not to.) Nina accuses Blayne of not listening to Brooke. Heidi says it looks like the model got dressed in the dark. The judges also criticize Leanne for not trying to talk Blayne out of it. Blayne inisits he took a risk and stands behind his design. He also states that he would be the one to be auffed because it was his design. (See, Kelli, he's watched PR before - you never throw your teammate to the wolves! The judges don't like that!)

Keith is chosen as the winner, and I wholeheartedly agree with that decision. It's a beautiful design and met the challenge perfectly. He doesn't get immunity, but he does get his design on a network TV show to be seen by a handful of people, so that's pretty good.

It comes down to a choice between Kelli's questionable taste, and Blayne's inability to design something that fits the challenge as opposed to something he just feels like making. In the end it is Kelli that goes home. I am sad, because I like Kelli and I think she has designed some interesting things. (Plus she's one of my hometown girls! Go Columbus!) But she's doing okay - her shop's getting a lot of business, and I hope I'll be able to get down there sometime. Let's bid her a fond farewell as we take one last look at her very elaborate tattoo.

Next episode: It's Chris March!! And drag queens!! And pink pterodactyls from a gay Jurassic Park!! Whoopee!!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Leavin' On A Jet Plane

I'm off on a little trip! Without my kids (whom I love dearly but all the constant "Mommmmm!! Where's my DS!?!" is starting to wear on me).

So if you are one of the handful of people who read my Project Runway recaps (thank you, by the way, for your nice comments!), please check back on Sunday evening or Monday morning. I may not even see the episode until Saturday night, as I'm not sure if my hotel has Bravo! Hotels should put that stuff on their websites, you know?

Anyway, have a nice week and go over to Blogging Project Runway to see a couple of preview videos for Episode 5.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Going for the Gold Lamé

With the reproachful eyes of Mary-Kate Olson staring down at them from an Elle cover at a newsstand, the designers get themselves over to Parsons to find out what exciting challenge awaits them today. Heidi, wearing a very sheer gray puffy shirt, greets them and they go through the model routine. Kenley keeps her model, Shannone (which is good because she’s fabulous and if Kenley ever gets auffed someone would be insane not to snap her up). Then Heidi sends them to Tim for another little field trip.

Tim and the designers pile into waiting vans and head off. During the van ride, Tim and Blayne have a discussion about Blayne’s tanning habits, and you can just see that Tim wants to yell “Didn’t your parents ever warn you about skin cancer?!” and Blayne is silently hoping the next challenge has something to do with tanning.

They end up at The Armory, a “ginormous” indoor track-and-field arena. Someone is zipping around the track on roller blades… a male someone with longish black hair and a little soul patch… could it be? Oh YES! It’s Apolo Anton Ohno! The Dancing With The Stars season 4 champion! I LOVE him! (Oh, and I guess he won some gold medals in speed skating.) He zips up to Tim and the gang, where he explains this week’s challenge: design an outfit for female US athletes to wear at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

In the past, designers of the outfits the Olympians wear in the Parade of Nations tend towards using traditional costumes, which is educational, or making them look like real estate agents, desk clerks on Fantasy Island, overgrown school children, Target employees,, little old ladies on the run from gardening jail during rainy season. (WTF??) The US is getting away from that this year, opting instead to go with designer Ralph Lauren and perpetuate the stereotype that Americans are rich and spoiled by making them dress like they’re off for a weekend in The Hamptons. So I’m sure whatever the designers come up with HAS to be an improvement… doesn’t it? It can’t be any worse than what the Canadians have to wear this year. I hope.

Anyway, this is quite the timely challenge – what a coincidence that they’re doing this episode the exact same week that the Beijing Olympics is starting? Things like that just don’t happen. Amazing. To give them a little history, inspiration, and to give them the chance to overcome history and design something non-embarassing, Apolo (hotness!) sends them over to the Track and Field museum (not to be confused with The Field Museum). There the designers find all sorts of black-and-white photos and old track suits behind plexiglass.
You can already tell who’s excited by this challenge, and who’s kinda confused but applauding politely anyway. After their half hour of sketching, the designers are whisked away to MOOD, where there are some scary-looking fabrics being purchased (and not just by Stella, who buys something black because she just can’t help herself). Terri gets all “oh no he didn’t!” when Keith gets some yardage of a fabric she’d set back for herself. (I’d say, let him have it, because from here it looks pink and there's no pink on the flag of the good ol' U S of A.)
Once back at Parsons, there’s sewing sewing sewing, draping draping draping. Stella reminds us that these outfits are “how America will be portrayed to the world”. Hate to break it to you, Stella, but people around the world watch PR and this: is also how America is portrayed to the world. I’m just saying.

The designers share which sports they were involved in during school. Stella was a modern dancer. Leanne was a cheerleader (but ONLY because she was a gymnast and a dancer and everyone knows that if you are both of those things, you are required by law to either be a cheerleader or on the pep rally dance squad). Joe played football his freshman year, until he quit growing and the larger guys started using him for a ball, which prompted him to hide indoors and take up sewing instead. Daniel played Putt-Putt. Blayne proclaims himself "an Olympian in tanning", and quips that his event only goes up to bronze medal. (Ha! Ha! He finally says something genuinely funny!) The lack of tanning is really getting to him. By the end of the season he’ll be so pale that he’ll be invisible (which is not really a bad thing, overall).

Jennifer tells us she’s amazed at the speed with which Terri is cranking out her garment. Or rather, garments, as she’s planning to do a jacket, a shirt, pants, and a vest. If she has time she might cobble a pair of shoes to go along with it and cast some jewelry. Jennifer suspects that Terri has smuggled a sweatshop of tiny elves under her sewing machine.
Stella’s outfit is mostly black, very space-age and modern, with red, silver and blue leather-ish trims. Why not, she asks. After all, lots of bikers watch the Olympics! Someday, Harley riding may be IN the Olympics! And they will need outfits! (Right, and someday Stella will sew a dress using chiffon.) Leanne thinks Stella’s garment looks like it belongs in a Goth nightclub. Now I ask you, does Leanne LOOK like the type of girl who frequents Goth nightclubs and would know that?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the workroom, Daniel is using Kenley as a dress form instead of the perfectly inanimate one he’s been given. He and Kenley are having a grand old time horsing around and laughing, much to the annoyance of most everyone else. Apparently Kenley laughs too loud, and sounds like a strange jungle bird or a dolphin, depending on who’s doing the imitation.

Korto has decided to use mostly white in her outfit, because she thought the white outfit would really stand out in the opening ceremony. She then tells us the story of her family’s flight from Liberia during their civil war. It is really touching and you can tell she’s really genuinely appreciative of the opportunities she’s had here in the US, and she really wants to do a good job on this challenge.

It’s time for Tim to make his rounds. He starts with Joe and responds really well to the design, which includes a skort and a bi-colored zipper made from two solid-colored zippers. He then moves on to Blayne, who appears to be making a drum majorette’s jacket. Tim comments that “it’s looking a little Sgt. Pepper” to which Blayne replies, “I don’t know what that is”. (Tim and I both give exasperated sighs. How can you NOT know Sgt. Pepper?? What kind of people were this kid’s parents? I mean, both of my kids know what Sgt. Pepper is!) Tim has to explain to Blayne that it’s the Beatles. Blayne grabs that and runs with it, saying that he’s drawing from that era, with cardigans and stuff. I groan at the TV. The Beatles may have worn matching outfits but I don’t think they ever wore sweaters. The Lettermen or Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers in the 50’s yes. But not the Beatles. Tim gives up and moves on to Daniel. He’s got a skirt mostly finished, but no bodice, and he’s using that really iffy blue that almost looks purple. (I had a dress in college that was the same color, and I got really tired of having to defend it. I have a feeling Daniel will be having that same problem.) Tim warns Daniel against unraveling emotionally as the night goes on, as Daniel has done every challenge so far.

Before he leaves for the evening, Tim visits with Jerell, who is committing the sin of making a horizontally-striped pencil skirt that will look horrible on muscular women; and Jennifer, who is making a dress that would look great on a 1940’s school teacher.

Joe and Daniel have a little run-in over a sewing machine they both want to use. Come on, guys. There are 10 empty machines! And what happened to the little namecards people put on the machines in past seasons to show who was using what? Joe blames the drama on the fact that there are “too many queens” and Korto feels like she’s back in high school. I’d say, more like preschool.

The next day, we get a LOT of shots of half-naked men. Jerell lotions up his legs and gets dressed and - What the hell is he wearing????????? Is he: a) Peter Pan; b) one of Robin Hood’s “merry” men; c) showing off his redesign of the Boy Scout uniform; or d) the lost Andrews Sister?

It’s time to get those models squished (literally, in some cases – I’m looking at you, Terri!!) into those garments and go, go, GO, people! Tim Gunn and Runway wait for no model! Heidi re-introduces the stylish (and cute) gold medalist Apolo Anton Ohno. To quote Joe from earlier in the show, “Let the fashion games begin!”

The safe designers Suede – He used tulle again. Just because the judges responded well to it once, does not mean that they want to see it in every garment you make.
Kelli – This model would be right at home serving you drinks and a bag of peanuts on a Pan Am flight, circa 1948.
Leanne – I actually kind of like this. It’s definitely modern, it’s got simple clean lines, and it would stand out from the sea of bankers from Australia in the Parade of Nations. (And yes, that's really the Australian team's outfits for this year.)
Stella – I don’t mind the length of the pants – the Canadian team wore a similar length a couple of Olympics ago – or the black, or even the stripy epaulets. This would not actually be too bad…if it weren’t for that obscene bellybutton cutout! Just that one thing sent this over the edge for me.

Keith – A view of his sketch earlier in the episode showed shorts. When did he make the decision to move from shorts, which would have been cute, to a micro-mini bubble skirt? I think pants might have worked even better than shorts, because the scarf is so long.

Blayne – This looks like something Buck Rogers’ girlfriend might have worn in space. Also, one-sleeved shirts might not look right on, say, a gymnast, who has really pumped-up torso and arms. And just because pink has red in it, and aqua has blue in it, does not mean you can substitute those colors for red and blue when making a patriotic statement. (Blayne: Please pick a different pair of shoes next time, you've used those twice now, and they're not particularly attractive.)
Kenley – Perfect for an afternoon of tea and crumpets with the Boston elite, but not for the US Olympic team. And where is the red? I also have an issue with the back of the skirt, because her plaids did not match up at all. Not even close. I hope she did it on purpose, although I don’t know why she would. (You know which country would be perfect for this outfit? Greece.)

Who’s left on the runway?

Korto – This is very basic and very modern. It implies sportiness instead of hitting you over the head with it. I wish she had used a different shade of blue, because on the runway it looks black. The judges like it, saying it looks really comfortable and chic.
Joe – His skort design is definitely athletic, but the shorts are too short, and it ends up looking like she’s wearing an apron. I’m not a fan of the USA down the side, which makes me think of a child’s model rocket. Heidi is impressed with his two-toned zipper. The judges also say it would show off an athlete's physique very well.
Daniel – Oh, Daniel. When you put blue with red it’s going to go purple! I hope the judges packed their 3-D glasses, because this dress gives new meaning to the phrase “it pops”. Heidi keep saying it’s purple and you can just see that Daniel wants to say, “It’s blue, bitch!” His model looks nervous, and with just cause. The judges see absolutely no Olympic connection, unless it’s a design for the team from the Republic of Cocktail Land. During their sewing time, Daniel let Kenley talk him out of making a red bolero jacket for the dress, which I think was a mistake. It needs something – maybe a little red or white capelet.
Jerell – This is five different decades in one outfit – Victorian shirtwaist, big hat from the 30’s, limp neck bow from the 80’s, pencil skirt from the 50’s, and leggings from the 60’s. Apolo says it’s definitely unique, which Jerell correctly identifies as the only compliment he’s going to get. It’s not athletic at all, and that big hat would drive photographers crazy. Michael Kors cracks up during the entire conversation, which is never good. I also question Jerell’s taste in makeup – did he tell them to apply it with an icing spatula?
Terri – It’s nice, but wow, that tube top is too tight!! She’s got a muffin top on her chest! Good thing she used that big blousy scarf to cover it up. But other than that, the judges say it looks really American, with a 70’s vibe. They also like the versatility of the separate pieces, and say it looks smart and sharp.
Jennifer – She was insipired by a 1920’s track suit (for the stripes on the skirt), but was not able to make this look modern at all. In fact, this would look great on an American Girl doll. Apolo says this doesn’t look like an outfit that a confident female athlete would wear. Nina hits the nail on the head when she comments that Jennifer can’t separate challenges from her personal taste, and that it actually just looks silly.

Now that the grilling is over, it’s time to determine a winner. In my opinion, it’s between Joe and Korto, with Korto slightly ahead. If Joe hadn’t put that big USA on there I probably would have liked his best because it looks sportier. The judges go with Korto for the win.

The bottom two are Daniel and Jennifer. While Daniel may have missed the mark completely, at least it could be mistaken for modern, where Jennifer’s can’t - so she’s out. In her little exit sequence she mentions her surrealism design aesthetic again, but I’m left wondering, where was it? I really don’t think she knows what surrealism means. I really didn’t think her outfits were bad, they were actually kind of cute for doll clothes. Maybe she should go into that.

Next week: Well, Bravo goes ahead and shows the guest judge for next week at the end of this show but I won’t say who it is; somebody designs something “slutty slutty slutty”; and Kenley has a giggle fit on the runway that pisses Daniel off for some reason.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Rain, The Park, and Other Things*

It’s a new day at the Atlas, and Daniel wakes up hoping the auffing of Wesley was just a bad, bad dream, because they were getting along so well. Unfortunately for Daniel, Wesley is still gone. After everyone wakes up, Kelli dons a kicky leopard-print beret, Blayne does a pregnant waddle out the door, and it’s off to Parsons.

The designers get a scare from Heidi, who says it’s time to mix things up a little with the models, but she just means that Suede has to decide if Suede’s going to stay with his model or if Suede wants a walk-off. Suede loves Tia, Suede stays with Tia, and I can’t believe I just typed that. I apologize! Anyway, to make up for causing them to nearly freak out, she sends them home to wait for Tim, who’s going to take them “out”.

Now, “out” could mean dinner, a movie, the bathroom (if you’re a dog) or just the sidewalk in front of their apartment building. They're thinking "out" as in "par-tay". I think the last time the designers were let “out” unsupervised was back in the first season, where they all got completely plastered and one of them ended up bashing his head on a sidewalk and bleeding all over the place. So if they're going somewhere with Tim, the chances of them actually doing something with no challenge strings attached are pretty slim.

When Tim comes to collect them, he passes out ponchos because it’s raining (and they look like the cheap ones you get at amusement parks but have to pay $7.50 for) and walks them to a double-decker sightseeing bus. The challenge this week is to take pictures of New York at night, in the rain, wearing geeky touristy ponchos, and use one of the pictures to create a garment. Yes, it’s another repeat challenge, but one that spawned some incredible dresses last time. Hopefully we will see some equally inspired dresses from this bunch.

The bus drops little clots of designers at four locations: Columbus Circle, Times Square, the NY library, and Greenwich Village. Everyone wanders around their areas taking pictures of things and getting wet. Blayne immediately starts looking for a tanning salon. Stella doesn’t know how to use the camera. (I’m sure if it had been leather she would have had no problems.) Emily takes a picture of a sex shop. Keith tells us that it’s not easy being a gay Mormon. Kenley and Stella get annoyed because he’s taking so many pictures and they just want to go home. Keith then pulls the first “I’m not here to be their friend” cliché of the season.

They make their way back to Atlas and get ready for bed. Jerell comes out of the bathroom in full facial mask and I fall off the couch. When I finish laughing, it occurs to me that he looks really familiar… Oh! He’s the little Nowhere Man from the Beatles' Yellow Submarine cartoon! See?The next day the designers go through the pictures they took and choose one to be their inspiration. Then they go to MOOD for the first time and get to pick whatever they want! Finally! Stella makes a beeline for the leather-like products, which surprises nobody; Kenley buys a print that I swear I last saw on a housedress that belonged to my grandmother; and Emily clears out the ‘bright pop-py color’ section.

When they return to Parsons, Tim tells them that they’ll have a whole extra hour than they usually get to finish! Oooo. What does it matter? They won’t really finish anyway. I’m so over the ‘you have 12 hours’ drama.

The designers are all sewing away, when the hairs on Kenley’s neck start standing up. She looks up to find that apparently, Blayne has turned into a flesh-eating zombie. (He's obviously in the throes of tanning withdrawl – let that be a warning to us all.) Tim comes in to see what people are working on. He’s mortified by Jennifer’s hems. He’s torn on Kenley’s design – it’s teetering on that fine line between costume and fabulousness. Terri explains to him that she’s really hip-hop and street and her fabric shows that. (Sure, if the street she’s on has recently been painted by Monet.) Leanne’s skirt is gorgeous, but Tim warns her about overworking it like she did with her dress last time. Emily’s dress is simply disappointing. Emily considers that a “mixed review” (I consider it Tim's way of saying her dress looks like shit and she better change it now) and states that she’s happy with it, which of course means that she’s in serious trouble because she’s ignoring Tim.

An amusing segment follows in which Blayne and Terri attempt to teach Tim some street slang. Listening to Tim Gunn try to master saying “Holla at ya boy” is cinematic gold. He also endears himself to us further by throwing out a lot of catchphrases as he leaves (make it work, carry on, holla at ya boy) and poking fun at himself.

The next morning Blayne flat-irons his dirty hair and Stella is wearing those god awful Raggedy Ann tights with the leather thong on the outside. They ought to auf her just for those. In the rush to get the garments runway-ready, Tim arrives with some bad news: Keith’s model has dropped out. Luckily the eliminated model is coming back, but Keith’s going to have to do some fast alterations. I don't think it will really matter, since his dress is basically a sack with some quilt patches attached to it. The models come in and get dressed. Jerell, for the third week in a row, tells his model “we got this!” – which means that for the third week in a row Jerell will be in the middle of the pack.

Out on the runway Heidi apparently took to heart Nina’s comment from last week that “short, tight and shiny is the quickest way to look cheap”, and wears something short, tight and shiny. This week’s guest judge is comedian and actress Sandra Bernhard – whom I have never liked - and I wonder about her fashion cred.

Before I start with the dresses, I have to say that I was quite underwhelmed by the majority of these. Which is sad, really – they got to pick their own stuff and this is what they came up with? I’m surprised the judges were able to stay awake through the runway show.

The safe designers Blayne – Oh look! Rainbow Bright grew up and is headed out to dinner.
Joe – This is okay. You can see how his inspiration picture translated into the dress he sent down the runway, although I think the little chain running down from the neck is a bit too literal.
Jerell – When this gown came down the runway I literally gasped with surprise. We saw almost nothing of it during the show, and it’s quite stunning. It's even more impressive that he managed to make something so complex compared to everyone else's. I was surprised it wasn't in the top three based on that criteria alone. However, I’m puzzled by his color choice – is this what the water looks like in New York fountains? If so, then they have a big algae problem. Or maybe he chose this color so it would hide the fact that the train would be filthy by the end of the night. Or maybe she’s going to a hunting awards show.
Kelli – This girl is probably going to a rave at some underground club in an abandoned sewage treatment plant. The fabric she used for the top is different, I’ll give it that much. Not quite sure what's going on around the waist though.
Daniel – Another Audrey Hepburn-esque cocktail dress. The colors are right on and I like the way he used the black. I’d like to see him do something different, though.
Suede – Besides the color scheme, how did this dress come from this picture? You can't tell from these pictures but it's got little blue and gold triangles all over it. During the show, he had a little fort set up around him at his work table. No wonder… he didn’t want anyone to see this!
Stella – Oh geez. Yes, I understand that she’s rock and roll, and will be until she dies and is buried in her leather coffin, but please! Make something less, um, skanky. Just once.
Korto – It’s... a black jumpsuit. Yawn. And I have no idea how she got the idea for this garment from that picture, unless her goal was to make her model appear to have the same basic shape as a concrete column, in which case she certainly succeeded.

Who’s left on the runway?

Keith - Okay, is he not even trying? If I hadn’t seen him at the sewing machine I would have assumed the squares are attached with safety pins. Maybe if he’d cut all the squares and then basted them down flatter, kind of making his own fabric, and THEN made the dress, it would have worked better. As it is now, the poor model has no shape. MK calls it “toilet paper caught in windstorm” and the judges slam it for being unpolished, sloppy, and too white.
Kenley – Whoa! Baby got back! (Well, at least on one side.) And can someone please tell me how her inspiration photo turned into this fabric? They're not even remotely the same colors. For all their talk about it resembling a goiter, which is very unpleasant, the judges respond well to this dress. Nina likes the play on volume. They also say it’s kind of “eighties retro”, but those sleeves and the high neck make me think more “Victorian shirtwaist”.
Emily – Apparently on the way to Parsons, the model was hit by a car and her intestines started coming out, but she threw them over her shoulder and valiantly walked the runway. The black dress is very simple and the ruffles are placed in strange spots, highlighting and pointing out various anatomy. And when the judges use the words “cha-cha” and “Carmen Miranda” you know it’s not a good thing. Some nice bananas and mangos in her hair would really do wonders for this dress. Maybe some maracas. And a stuffed parrot.
Terri – She keeps calling it a dress but it’s more like a tunic over some pants. The judges say this girl is fierce, sexy, and in-control (but… that’s the model... not the outfit!) and that when they see her, she’s someone they want to know. I see her and want to know what possessed her to wear pants with a dress. And she certainly doesn’t look very street or hip-hop to me at all.
Jennifer – Wow, this is a great maternity dress! I had no idea this model was expecting! Congrats! Oh, she’s not? The dress just makes her look that way? Oops. Jennifer keeps claiming she’s influenced by surrealism but I don’t see it. And the hems look horrible. The judges proclaim it matronly, it apparently bores Nina so much that she can’t be bothered to even comment on it, and Heidi is no longer interested in seeing any more of Jennifer’s designs. (Hmm, I think it’s safe to say she’s probably not in the top three this week.)
Leanne – I like how she used her inspiration picture to get the basic geometry but didn’t go too far towards the literal. The simple blouse does a good job of keeping the focus on the structured skirt. The judges like that she made separate pieces, and throw out words like impeccable, wearable and modern. I think this could be our winner!

Okay, so I was wrong – the judges pick Kenley’s lumpy-bumpy Victorian housedress as the winner. The bottom two are Jennifer and Emily, and I am torn, because they’re both not all that great. But in the end, Emily’s distracting cliché is worse than Jennifer’s matronly bore, so Emily is out. She completely disagrees with them and says hell NO it was not the losing dress by a long shot, but she’s going to go home and work on her collection and be fabulous. (Her collection is here, and I soooo want that first red dress, where can I buy it?!)

Next week: Tim has to explain to Blayne what Sgt. Pepper is. That’s so, so very sad.

* In case you're curious, here's where I got my post title.